I found a blog post by Nathan Bransford who is an author and former literary agent. It goes into a detailed description of the process of publication for aspiring authors. I found a quote which I particularly loved that was about choosing a publisher:
“To me, arguing which is “better” is a lot like fighting over whether basketball, baseball, or football is the superior sport. They are all sports, they all have a fan base, and they all bring enjoyment to the people who choose to participate in them. Is there really a “better”? Well, no. They’re just different.”
As long as they’re fairly reputable (as in, you have no evidence of them trying to scam you) then it sounds like most publishing companies are equitable. But worrying about who you will seek to publish your work comes later in the process. First, according to Bransford, you have to have your book completely finished and polished. Unless you’re a well-known author (and sometimes not even then), you have to have the whole piece done in order for people to take you seriously and want to work with you.
Bransford recommends finding a literary agent after your work is complete. During my research I read somewhere (it’s been too long to recollect where) that it is a better idea to find a literary agent rather than a lawyer. Literary agents know the process and more about the industry than any lawyer does. Plus, with a literary agent, Bransford says publishers will actually (probably) look at your work and you’ll have a far better chance at making it farther with your book. Agents also “specifically target the submission to the editors that they feel are most appropriate for the book” which is a huge plus for you.
Next in the process, editors will rip apart your book and see if they are actually interested in taking it to the next step. If they are, they will send your agent an offer. Bransford says that “An offer usually includes an advance, royalties, territory, and other specific terms.” Once all contractual agreements have been hashed out and revisions to the book have been made, the book transitions to “copyediting, where typos and other errors are corrected, and designed as it will look on the page.” Next, “the design of the book, including the cover, trim size, paper type, and other design-y considerations” are finalized. Basically, this whole time, you as the author just sit and wait. Technical stuff and sales stuff goes down and your “agent usually keeps tabs on this process to make sure everything is happening according to plan.”
Going through a publisher, as I said in my last post, is more time-consuming than self-publishing. It’s a far more intensive process and everything I’ve read about it says that it usually takes at least a year (and that’s after you have completely written your book). Also, the suggested changes that the editors make are actually more like demands. If you want to keep your book exactly how you want it, you may want to seek the self-publishing route. The main consideration you have to keep in mind is: Do I want my book (possibly) widely read, or do I want to maintain all of the control in the process and final product?
To view Bransford’s entire blog post about the traditional publishing route as well as a ton of other useful sources to writers, check out: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/08/how-book-gets-published.html